BODY AND SOUL by Marcelle Bernstein


Email this review


 A contemporary nun from a strict contemplative order in Wales ventures out into the world and within a few months finds earthly love, life's small material pleasures, a career (she saves and runs the family woolen mill), swell clothes, and a decent haircut. A perfunctory genuflection is made to the spiritual life, but the show is the unfreezing of nunly chaste discipline--an ancient (and rather tawdry) popular titillation. Anna, a.k.a Sister Gabriel, is a member of an order where the work is simple and hard, the discipline severe. She is beginning to feel restless, but it's not until her brother commits suicide and her sister-in-law Lynn, mother of two and expecting, calls for help that Anna is exposed to the temptations and challenges of the outside world. Anna helps the distraught Lynn while guiltily enjoying delights like perfumed baths and coffee (the sisters were served hot water--rarely tea). But then she confronts the problem of the family mill (she's the only descendant). The mill, thanks to Anna's brother's instability and the dirty work of a manager, is about to go under. But with an acumen hitherto slumbering at the convent, Anna takes hold, and using her remembered knowledge of the business and materials--from fleece to dye to looms--she routs the bad guy, makes super bank deals, and even, along the way, helps deliver Lynn's baby (with the help of one of the bankers). Un- habited, there'll be a night of love, stolen kisses, and a promise of future partnership before Anna officially leaves the convent. Bernstein (Nuns, 1976) has chosen convent rituals and rules of unusual rigor to point up pulse pounding when the world booms in. It all boils down to: nun thaws, has--whimperin' wimples!--sex and career.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06308-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991